Savvy Gaming Group buys FACEIT and ESL for $1.5B

ESL and competitive gaming platform FACEIT were sold to Savvy Gaming Group, backed and fully owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. One of the biggest purchases in the gaming industry, the deal is reportedly worth $1,5 billion. What does this mean for the future of esports?

ESL and FACEIT are “teaming up”, including DreamHack and Badlion, but they will operate as they did before. You can find ESL FACEIT Group’s first CS:GO initiatives here. Some of them can be summarized as they will fight against cheating together, support the local scenes and promote stability for the NA scene as a start.

Details about the deal and ESL/FACEIT

Before the sale, ESL had come to the point that it had a foothold in most esports disciplines. They are one of the biggest tournament organizers in games like Dota 2, StarCraft and most notably, CS:GO. You know FACEIT as CS:GO’s alternative ranked system, which is regarded better than the game’s own ladder. The organization has services for TF2, Dota 2, LoL and more.

According to the official announcement, ESL and FACEIT’s management will stay somewhat the same. Sports Business Journal announced that  Savvy Gaming Group is a long-term investor group, and it’s current head is Brian Ward, former head of Activision Blizzard. He is joined by Jerry Gamez as CEO of Savvy’s infrastructure company and Kadri Harma as CEO of its ecosystem company.  

Savvy Gaming Group has bought both organizations. To be more specific, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund recently bought Newcastle United, a Premier League team. Currently, it is reported that they are in talks with Serie A club Inter Milan and Ligue 1 club Olympique de Marseille. However, being a Saudi-backed group, this purchase created controversies.

Controversies about the purchase

Negative perceptions about the purchase started when the first reports arrived, but the first one to publicly announce they won’t be working with ESL or FACEIT anymore was notable CS:GO commentator Vince. The caster explicitly stated that he doesn’t want to work with any of these organizations while they are backed with “Saudi money”.

Surely, there will be more criticism coming at ESL FACEIT Group and Savvy Gaming Group after this purchase, as the gaming community previously showed they really despise such moves, especially from the Public Investment Fund. If they want to turn this into a long-term investment as they claimed, Savvy Gaming Group has to find a way to get support from the fans first.

NEOM controversies

As mentioned earlier, there were similar deals before in the gaming industry. Saudi Arabian planned city NEOM announced they were backing BLAST before, but including Vince, many criticized the deal and that led to partnership being cancelled due to the community backlash.

NEOM also tried to partner with League of Legends’ European major competition LEC, which had a backlash from the community and the workers in the LEC, most notably from Froskurinn, a colour commentator in the LEC team, known for being very vocal about such subjects. In the end, LEC called the partnership with NEOM a mistake, announcing that although they still remain committed to the players in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, they have to recognize their mistakes fast and act on them.

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